GENEVA July 2, 2018 – Racist and xenophobic ideologies based on ethno-nationalism regularly combine with national security fears and economic anxieties to violate the human rights of non-citizens, indigenous peoples and minorities, said the UN Special Rapporteur on racism, Tendayi Achiume.

In a report to the Human Rights Council, the UN expert urged “all to be vigilant regarding the calculated and opportunistic ways in which many political leaders and parties continue to exploit the economic discontent and national security anxieties of their populations”.

She applauded some “courageous” States and other actors within the United Nations system who have publicly condemned instances of extreme xenophobic ethno-nationalism. “However, in most instances of explicit ethno-nationalism, xenophobia and racism, even at the highest levels of political office, too many States remain silent,” she said, adding this silence amounts to complicity. Achiume urged all States and multilateral regional bodies to take public, consistent and firm positions against all such incidents whenever they occur.

States have long used access to citizenship and immigration status as a discriminatory tool against marginalized groups, she said. Exclusion from citizenship status, or formal immigration status – often rooted in ethno-nationalist ideology – continues to occur along racial, ethnic, national origin and religious lines. This does not only harm non-citizens, but also makes citizens from minority ethnic, racial or religious groups vulnerable to discrimination and intolerance.

“Statelessness, for example, is often the result of longstanding discriminatory laws, policies and practices that have led to the exclusion of people who are considered as foreign, even when they have been the respective countries for generations,” said the expert.

These restrictions also often carry a gender dimension as in a number of countries, women cannot transfer their nationality to their children or non-national spouse, the Special Rapporteur said.

The report also highlighted that States continued to use national security and counter-terrorism justifications to strip members of their national populations of citizenship. Achiume said that arbitrary citizenship stripping in practice has a disproportionate effect on marginalized racial, national and religious groups.

She also highlighted escalating inequality, and the direct relationship between the increase in economic disparity and the increase in xenophobic and populist parties. “The resulting economic marginalization of large sectors of national populations continues to facilitate toxic scapegoating, in which migrants, refugees and other non-nationals bear the blame for the economic failures of Governments and the global neoliberal order,” she said. “To make matters worse, opportunistic political leaders and extremist groups continue to use economic fears to justify punishing restrictions on the human rights of migrants.”

Ms E. Tendayi Achiume (Zambia) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in September 2017. Ms. Achiume is currently a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, and a research associate of the African Center for Migration and Society (ACMS), at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.